Feminist Elizabethan: Big Bang Sexually Objectifies Women in "Loser" and "Bae Bae"
Big Bang, a Korean boy band with five band members (G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung, and Seungri), debuted in 2006 and have been a huge success not only in South Korea but in other countries such as Japan, China, Australia and the U.S. as well (e.g., a snippet of one of their songs was used in a Pitch Perfect 2 trailer and they won Best Worldwide Act at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards). The band has recently made a comeback after a three year hiatus with the album MADE which is currently being released as singles and will later be released as a full album. So far, Big Bang has released the songs “Loser,” “Bang Bang Bang,” “Bae Bae,” “Sober,” “If You” and “We Like 2 Party.” All of the songs (as per usual for Big Bang) are catchy and likeable but there is one big downside when it comes to their new album. The music videos (MV) for “Loser” and “Bae Bae,” amongst other things, sexualize and objectify women.
“Loser” (as indicated by its lyrics) is about an individual who has problems and is a self-described jackass. In the video, the “loser” theme is conveyed via five men (Big Bang’s band members) who act alternatively despondent and angry. For example, G-Dragon destroys a lamp and then curls up in a bathtub; Taeyang jumps rooftops (for no apparent reason); Seungri destroys a car mirror; Daesung is beat-up and is upset that his scarf has been ruined; and T.O.P wanders the streets in a bathrobe and clings to a half-naked girl.
The scene that stands out the most in “Loser” is when T.O.P clings to a half-naked girl. What makes this scene stand out is the fact that the woman is indoors yet she wears a white bikini and a white, one piece bathing suit/bodysuit while T.O.P, in comparison, wears two different outfits which are colorful and completely cover his body (e.g., he wears blazers, closed shirts, jeans/pants and gloves). The vast difference in these two’s wardrobes are obviously strange, and it makes one wonder, why? Why would these two be dressed so differently? Well, there is an answer and it is simple. Because the woman is a prop and a sexual object in the scene.
All the woman does in the scene with T.O.P is slither about, rub up against him and make out with him. She has no will or thoughts of her own, she never speaks nor is her face ever clearly seen and because she is wearing all white while standing against a completely white background, the woman not only becomes just one of the many objects in the room but she also serves as part of T.O.P.’s backdrop. The woman is also physically treated as an object (and violently so) as there is an instance where T.O.P. actually grabs the woman’s hand by the tip of his gloved fingers (in apparent disgust and disdain) and then grabs her by the throat. This scene of violence is later continued when T.O.P. is shown wandering the streets with blood on his face, shirt and hands.
It is not completely clear why T.O.P is covered in blood, but it can only be assumed that this is meant to indicate that he had either beaten or killed the woman. This, to say the least, is disturbing. This, the objectification of the woman and the scene of domestic violence, also appears to be purposeful as there are lyrics that state:
It’s a cycle of girls and mistakes
Love them for one night
And hate them when morning comes
Can’t own up to it
Because of my selfish pleasure
So based on these translated lyrics, it is to be believed that at least part of the reason that the woman is objectified and sexualized is because the director/creative director/band is trying to convey that this man only sees women as something to be used and that this objectification of and violent treatment towards women it what makes him a “loser.” This scene, nonetheless, is disappointing if not downright insulting.
Big Bang’s attempt on making social commentary about the objectification of and violence towards women is odd, firstly, because this important and serious topic is completely out of place in the MV. The rest of the content in the MV, for example, is rather benign with Seungri being cheated on, Taeyang jumping rooftops and G-Dragon destroying an apartment. The only scene that comes close to the darkness of the domestic violence scene is when Daesung himself is a victim of violence and is beaten by a group of men. However, even as serious as Daesung’s scene is, there is still something about the domestic violence scene that makes it feel more frightening and “next level.” Perhaps this is because the woman is never seen being beaten so it can only be left to the imagination as to what has happened to her or maybe it is because of how incredibly casually it is insinuated that she has been beaten/murdered. The scene is so blasé, after all, that it is almost as if this scene was as an afterthought with no one quite realizing what a serious topic they were depicting. To have such a topic like domestic violence, which 35% of women worldwide experience, handled so seemingly flippantly is off-putting at best and disappointing, insulting and horrifying at worst. Furthermore, Big Bang’s attempt at making social commentary on the objectification of and violence towards women is both funny and ironic (and is effectively negated) as when this video for “Loser” was released, “Bae Bae,” which blatantly sexualizes and objectifies women just for the sake of objectification (i.e., women aren’t sexualized and objectified in this song and MV because the band is trying to make social commentary), was also released.
“Bae Bae” is a song that is about the attractiveness of a woman and how her beauty arouses men and how she shouldn’t age as this will “diminish her beauty.” In other words, the song idolizes and places women on a pedestal (e.g., one lyric questions whether a woman is human or an angel) and implies that a woman’s most important quality is looking good; that a woman can only be attractive at a certain age and that women should look good for the sake of men. The content and the theme of the song are obviously troubling, and the song only becomes worse in the actual MV for “Bae Bae” where there are two different prominent scenes where women are sexualized and objectified.
The first prominent scene where women are sexualized and objectified occurs in the opening of “Bae Bae.” In this first scene, G-Dragon runs around groping and rubbing up against lingerie clad, female mannequins while rapping:
I’M IN LOVE
I’m blind with love babe
No pants on with a white shirt babe
Are you a human or an angel?
Oh Jesus babe
You’re dazzling babe
My mind is so out of it
I’m possessed by you
Blood is rushing to that one place again
This unrealistic idealization and sexualization of women and comparison of women to plastic dolls sets the tone for the rest of the video. White women, for example, are toted around, used as props and sexualized throughout “Bae Bae” and this theme becomes especially noticeable (and problematic) around the minute mark of “Bae Bae” where the second most prominent scene of objectification occurs.
Around 1:00, T.O.P struts down a tunnel made of bright purple and yellow flowers (which have a faintly yonic vibe) and raps:
Your eyes are pretty like a deer
When you laugh at me it’s so chic
Are you crazy?
You’re a natural beauty, so unique, so unique
My perfect dear
Be my muse
We’re so comfortable together
I’m gaining so much weight
My body wraps around yours so perfectly
You’re forever 25 to me
Won’t ever change
At one point while rapping, T.O.P holds a syringe full of a milky white substance and squirts the liquid near a White woman’s face. The woman, in response to this, has a look of ecstasy and joy on her face, and she occasionally shoots a “come hither” look towards T.O.P as flowers burst all around her. And what do any of these factors (i.e., the syringe full of a milky white fluid, the woman’s orgasmic expressions and the exploding flowers) have to do with being “a natural beauty” and a “muse?” Nothing, really, except for the apparent fetishization and sexualization of a very narrowly defined concept of beauty.
The syringe scene is clearly a metaphorical cum scene. This, in itself, is strange since ejaculating on a woman’s face has absolutely nothing to do with what he is rapping about (unless the English translation of the Korean lyrics are extremely off) so it can only be assumed that this scene is meant to indicate that he is so aroused by the beauty of White women that he can’t help but to ejaculate on the very beauty that he covets. This is problematic on several levels...